Friday, 30 April 2010

Occasional giveaway draw - Maisie Comes to Morningside

No photo to go with this - I've been too busy to get to Morningside, and my life this week has consisted of work-eat-sleep. Or in French, 'metro-boulot-dodo'. But the draw has taken place, and the winner of a copy of 'Maisie Comes to Morningside', by Aileen Paterson, is Alli. Her favourite public transport journey is taking the campus bus late at night and listening to the driver's tales of the crazy students he's encountered during the day. Enjoy your little glimpse of Edinburgh, Alli!

The giveaway copy will be bought in a children's bookshop in Morningside, and I'll travel there by the 23 bus - hopefully in one of the front seats on the top deck. I'll take my camera, of course.

And at some point work will ease off and I'll have time and energy to visit other blogs again.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Owner - Her Majesty The Queen

When walking on the Glenlivet Estate you can be in no doubt as to the landowner. The estate is part of the larger Crown Estate, and the little crown logo tells you that the land belongs to Mrs Queen, or, to be more formal, to the reigning monarch.

The Crown Estate owns quite a chunk of Britain, from farms to forests, coastline (55% of the foreshore around Britain's coasts) to major bits of central London. I knew of the Crown Estate, having grown up on the doorstep of what we called 'Crown land', but until I read more when writing this post I didn't realise the scope of the organisation. Have a look at their website if you want to find out more.

In today's Scotland, with a strong trend towards devolution from the rest of the UK and even independence, there are probably mixed feelings about the Crown Estate. I say 'probably' because I don't follow these debates closely. What I would say is that the Crown Estate encourages the public onto its land and provides just the right level of facilities so that the wild aspect is preserved. The waymarked route we followed made a great morning's walk through farmland, forest and moorland.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Skywatch Friday - Cairn Daimh summit and snow

The cairn and trig point at the top of Cairn Daimh, looking south towards the Cairngorms. I'm not sure what a fence is doing at the top of the hill, tho. Possibly marking the boundary between one landowner and the other - more about that tomorrow.

The snow at the top of Cairn Daimh was patchy, but the patches were deep. Here's my daughter beside one of the marker posts for the Speyside Way. These posts are about 3.5 feet high.

More skies around the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ash cloud poetry

It depends on your standards whether you consider this poetry, but you've got to admire this wine shop in Edinburgh's Broughton Street for compressing the flight ban, the troublesome Eyjafjallajokull volcano and a marketing push on whisky into a cheeky four lines.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Occasional giveaway - don't forget the trams

Lying in bed this morning, I was musing on where in the world I'd like to be stuck because of the ban on flights. A very Monday morning sort of musing. I saw myself in Oslo, en route to Haraldsheim youth hostel up on the hill. Or Helsinki, passing the Rock Church. Or in the elegant city of Bordeaux. And then I realised. In every case I was looking at the city from a tram.

So in order not to exclude any favourite tram journeys you might have, and because one day (in the distant future) Edinburgh too will be a city of trams, I'm adding trams to the list of public transport for my Occasional giveaway below.

The picture above shows an underwhelmed Edinburgh public visiting a demonstration tram that was parked in Princes Street last year, just to show us that trams do exist.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Occasional giveaway - Maisie comes to Morningside

"For as long as she could remember, Maisie MacKenzie had lived on a tiny farm, in a distant glen, among the great northern mountains of Scotland. She lived there with her Daddy, who was a famous explorer."*

But Maisie's Daddy goes away on one of his explorations, and she goes to live with her Granny in Morningside.

"They took a shiny maroon taxi from the station and Maisie stared out at the darkening city. Huge dark buildings towered against the night sky, there were cars, buses and lorries tooting their horns on all sides, everyone was rushing somewhere...Maisie sat back and cuddled close to Granny, shivering a little.
When they arrived at Granny's street, Maisie jumped out of the taxi and groaned to herself. 'So this is Morningside," she thought. "What a disappointment.' "*

But Maisie comes to discover the delights of Morningside, as indeed anyone may do if they take the number 23 bus south from Princes Street. Ideally sitting at the front seat on the top deck. However, not all readers of my blog have the chance to discover Morningside in person, so to give a taste of where the 23 would take them, fish and chip shops, the Dominion Cinema, Blackford Hill, vanilla tablet and all, I'm having my first Occasional giveaway. A copy of 'Maisie Comes to Morningside', by Aileen Paterson. The Maisie books have been part of Edinburgh life since 1984, and once you've read 'Maisie Comes to Morningside' you'll feel like an honorary Edinburgher.

To enter the giveaway, send me an email to, including a link to your blog if you have one and tell me two things: in this time of contrail-free skies and people paying unbelievable sums to cross Europe by taxi, tell me your favourite journey by public transport (bus, train or boat). It can be a one-off, or a regular journey. And let me know who you would like the book for. It doesn't need to be a younger person - it's okay to admit that it's for you. You just have to be willing to have your answers published on my blog.

Life is hectic just now, especially since the allotment season has started, so I'm setting a closing date of 30 April. The draw will be made by my daughter, who was brought up on the Maisie books.

I'll be buying the giveaway copy in Morningside, to give it that extra bit of cachet, and I'll take the number 23 bus to get there.

*Quotations are from 'Maisie Comes to Morningside', by Aileen Paterson.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Edinburgh's ash cloud - from the 23 bus

I looked out for it yesterday, from my vantage point on the top deck of the number 23 bus. And from the front seat too! (Does anyone else's heart lift when they climb the stairs to the top deck of a bus and discover that a front seat is free?). Not much sign of cloud here at Tollcross. The glass and white concrete brutalist thing is the corporate headquarters of the Bank of Scotland. Just peeking out behind it at the right is Edinburgh Castle, which I suppose was considered pretty brutalist in its day.

On George IV Bridge, below, I could just fancy that there's a slight pinkish haze on the horizon, behind the dome of the - gosh - Bank of Scotland building. Scottish flags snap in the wind above the National Library of Scotland.

By the time we're dipping and swaying down Hanover Street, and looking across the River Forth to the hills of Fife, there's certainly something out there.

Tomorrow I'll be posting my first occasional giveaway, inspired by today's post. No, it's not a bit of Arthur's Seat (Edinburgh's very own extinct volcano).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Skywatch Friday - Ben Rinnes and cotton wool clouds

Ben Rinnes in Mount Fujiama guise, beneath a sky of cotton wool balls (which might be altocumulus stratiformis perlucidus). Sunday on Speyside was hot - 20 degrees Centigrade. That's HOT for Scotland in April. We chose that day to climb Cairn Daimh, slogging up through snow and clambering over fallen trees in the conifer plantations. It was worth it for many things, including this glorious expanse of sky.

See more skies across the world at the Skywatch Friday site.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

12 kuvaa/photos - my walk to work April

Chestnut tree breaking into leaf, and behind that the green mist of new willow leaves. I didn't take a shot of Calton Hill today to post here, as I've been doing all winter. We're just back from Speyside, and the view of buildings, albeit ancient monument-y ones, just didn't appeal to me after several days of fields and hills and forests.

See more from around the world in the 12 kuvaa/photos series here.

And look how far we've come since the depths of the Scottish winter:







Thursday, 8 April 2010

Skywatch Friday - spring rainbow

A real cheer-me-up-after-a-long-day-at-the-office rainbow on my walk home from work yesterday. The chimney with the red bit at the top is that of the Lady Haig Poppy Factory - the red bit is a poppy.

After reading The Cloudspotter's Guide and becoming a proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society, I know what I never noticed before - that the sky inside a rainbow is always lighter than the sky outside it.

More skies around the world are at Skywatch Friday.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Wordless Wednesday - It begins

Visit the Wordless Wednesday site here.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Out like a lion

Over the past two days March has gone out like a roaring lion. Blizzards have swept Scotland, closing roads, railways and ferry services. Very tragically, a school student was killed in a coach accident at the start of what was to be a recreational Easter trip.

The back of my daughter's hoodie above should really be re-printed as 'We didn't get to Orkney Music Tour 2010'. The school baroque orchestra and chamber choir were due to leave on Tuesday evening, travelling north to Inverness by coach, staying the night in Inverness, then travelling on to Scrabster next day and taking the ferry to Kirkwall. The school decided to cancel the trip on Tuesday afternoon as the weather worsened. Huge disappointment - no concerts in Stromness and Kirwall, no sightseeing of Skara Brae, Scapa Flow, the Ring of Brodgar - but it was a wise decision. The road they would have travelled was blocked by snow in several places. The ferries were only just operating, with many services cancelled and no guarantee that they would be able to cross. And even if they did, the sea conditions were atrocious. Seas 'rough to very rough', winds of gale force 8 to severe gale 9.

In the centre of Edinburgh it was easy to have a false sense of security about the conditions. We had wet snow, with the usual city slush.

But the harbour wall was breached at Leith, and just a few miles outside Edinburgh roads were blocked and the main East Coast line blocked by a landslide. Yes, it was a pity the orchestra and choir missed their trip, but it wouldn't have been worth the risk.


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